Diálogo publica dos cartas que la organización internacional Sierra Club con sede en Puerto Rico envió a la primera dama de Estados Unidos, Michelle Obama, y al reconocido columnista del New York Times, Thomas Friedman, para hacerles conocer la reciente desclasificación del Corredor Ecológico del Noreste como Reserva Natural, así como las alarmantes implicaciones de esta decisión del gobernador, Luis Fortuño. ____________________________________________________ San Juan, Puerto Rico November 25, 2009 To: Michelle Obama Office of the First Lady 1600 Pennsylvania Ave Washington, DC 20006, USA Dear Mrs. Obama, In the early 1960’s my father, the late Dr. Jose del Castillo, founder of the Institute of Neurobiology in San Juan, became aware of plans to build a large urbanization on the northeastern tip of Puerto Rico, an area of extreme beauty, history and biological diversity. He sounded the alarm and contributed to the growth of some of Puerto Rico’s first conservation movements. He was able to enlist the assistance of Lady Bird Johnson, among other international and local political and scientific figures, to stop the destruction of this unique area. As a result of these efforts the “Las Cabezas de San Juan (El Faro)” is now open to the public and managed by the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico, enriching the lives of visitors and locals alike and preserving this privilege for generations to come. I am writing to you today as my father wrote to the First Lady nearly 50 years ago, to request your assistance in the preservation of 3,000 pristine acres of coastal wetlands and forests which lie between (and virtually connect) the Las Cabezas de San Juan and El Yunque National Rainforest, both in northeastern Puerto Rico. A steadily growing conservation movement has been calling attention to this area, now known as the Corredor Ecológico del Noreste. If conservation of natural resources was important in the Puerto Rico of the 1960’s it is even more desperate and critical today. Much of our island is overwhelmed by congestion, construction, lack of water, and urban sprawl. Our quality of life has deteriorated severely and Puerto Ricans are in great need of green spaces, accessible to all, in which to rest, play, and observe our fast-disappearing flora and fauna (as a practicing psychiatrist I am only too aware of this need). To mention but one example, this area is the nesting site of hundreds (about 500 last year) of leatherback turtles – hatching 20-25,000 eggs, many of which will return to nest in the same sites in the future, if we do not destroy their habitat. A few years ago our previous governor designated the area as protected land, forbidding the proposed construction of hotels, golf courses and apartments. Sadly, our current governor reversed this decision only last month, to the dismay and shock of anybody with a minimum of sensitivity to these issues, and opening the possibility that bulldozers may soon begin to charge through. I beg you to help our island in any way you are able to prevent the irreversible steps of “construction” (in reality destruction) that threaten this place of extraordinary beauty and richness. Our efforts thus far have not been sufficient. Without your help our politicians might just kill the goose with the golden eggs and we cannot afford to let this happen. I thank you in advance for your time and attention to these matters. I include the following sites (see attachments) that give a broader picture of this ecological emergency: Alan del Castillo M.D. http://220.127.116.11/~fideicom/english/index. http://www.sierraclub.org/corridor/ http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/caribbean/ ____________________________________________________ Luquillo, Puerto Rico November 30, 2009 To: Thomas L. Friedman Author Dear Mr. Friedman, I have just read Hot, Flat and Crowded (2008) and its impact on me was so strong that I sent it as a gift to several of my friends. I think it should be required reading for all college students. I moved to Puerto Rico from Britain in 1959, and recently retired from teaching in genetics at the University of Puerto Rico. During these fifty years I have observed many thoughtless and irresponsible changes to the landscape on the island. Progress and development here has often meant the slow elimination of a green environment for one of cement and we certainly have become ‘hot, flat and crowded’—imagine 2.9 million cars and 4 million people in an island of 9,000 square km. Our ecology is my deepest concern now and the reason for writing to you is that a tract of 3,000 acres of coastal wetland, forests and beaches on the North East shore is now being threatened by developers. The area, known as the Northeastern Ecological Corridor, was designated as protected land by the previous government in response to pressure from many concerned citizens. It is home to over 50 rare and endangered species, and is the second largest nesting area for the leather-back turtle in the U.S. jurisdiction. This magnificent creature annually lumbers its way up the beaches leaving its 8 foot wide tracks on the sand like a land rover – over 400 nests were identified this year. Unfortunately, in a gesture which has stunned many citizens, our current governor has recently removed the protected status allocated to it after lengthy and comprehensive environmental impact studies, clearing the way for the construction of hotels, condos and golf courses and limiting access to all but a few Puerto Ricans for generations to come. The site at www.sierraclub.org/corridor will give you a larger description of this unique place. Have you any suggestions Mr. Friedman as to what steps we might yet take in order to prevent this tragic loss? Would you be able to lend us your support in any way you see fit? Your fame as an author would lend much weight to any statement you might make regarding this urgent struggle to keep us ‘cooler and less crowded’. I thank you in advance for your time, Yours sincerely, June Hime firstname.lastname@example.org
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